Friday, December 31, 2010
W2W4: Thrashers vs. Islanders
By Mike Hume
With the Thrashers making an early evening house call in Newark, here are three factors to keep tabs on when the action gets underway Friday night.
The Thrash handed the Devils one of their worst losses of the season (7-1) down in Atlanta. While former Thrasher Ilya Kovalchuk scored a goal in his return, he finished with an unsightly minus-3 rating. That's been about par for the course this season (actually, the goal was a bit of a rarity). Kovalchuk hasn't finished with a positive rating in 14 of the Devils last 15 games. I'm sure Kovalchuk will be hungry to make a better impression tonight against his former team.
Respect the Completion
With a nod to Adam Sandler, the Devils came close to breaking in to rare two-goal territory against the Rangers, but hockey is neither horseshoes, nor hand grenades so close doesn't count. However, the effort level was much, much better than it has often been this season and if the Devils can keep playing with that level of urgency, they're bound to snap their six-game skid of just one goal per game.
Johan Hedberg was, um, not good, against his old team in Atlanta. The Devils' second-string stopper allowed three goals on seven shots in relief of Martin Brodeur, but he gets the nod tonight. It will be the first start for Moose since Dec. 6 when he looked very good against Pittsburgh (32 saves in a 2-1 loss). The Devils could help him out by continuing to keep their opponents' shot totals down. Since Jacques Lemaire took over, the Devils have averaged 20.7 shots against per game. That's a mighty fine average. Unfortunately for the Devils, opponents have sported a shooting percentage of 19.4 in those games, about 10 percent higher than what is usually the league average. It will be up to Hedberg to help drop that striking figure tonight.